POETS, COURTESANS, AND MONKS 135 Going into the inner temple, they saw the image o£ the Goddess of Mercy holding a rosary in her hand, "Since the Goddess of Mercy is a buddha herself, what is she doing "there telling the beads?" asked Su Tungpo. "Oh," replied Foyin. "she is only praying to buddha like all the others." "But which buddha?" asked Su Tungpo again. "Why, the buddha, the Goddess of Mercy herself." "Now what's the meaning of that? She is the Goddess of Mercy; why does she pray to herself?" "Well," said Foyin, "you know it's always troublesome to beg from others—it is always easier to depend on oneself."* They saw then a Buddhist prayer-book lying open on the altar. Su Tungpo found that a prayer read thus: "A curse upon all poisons! By the help of the Goddess of Mercy, May those who use poison on others Take the poison themselves." "This is utterly unreasonable/' said Su Tungpo. "Buddha is kind. How can she be expected to avert trouble from one person in order to give it to another? If that is so, then Buddha is not Love." Asking permission to have the prayer corrected, he took up a brush and crossed out some of the lines to make it read: "A curse upon all poisons! By the help of the Goddess of Mercy, May both the users of poison And the intended victims be spared." Many of the stories of clever repartee between Su Tungpo and Foyin were based on puns and are untranslatable. There is, however, the following. The word "bird" had a dirty meaning in Chinese slang, and Su ^Tungpo thought to make fun of his friend with it. "The ancient poets," said Su Tungpo, "often placed mm'kj opposite birds in a couplet. For instance, there is a couplet: 'Hearing a bird pecking at a tree, I thought it was a monl^ knocking at the door/ Again, another couplet says: 'Birds perch on trees beside the pond, and a mon\ knocks at the gate under the moon.' I always admire the wisdom of the ancient poets in placing monks against birds." "That is why," said Foyin, "I, as a monk, am sitting opposite you." * The original word chin means both "to beg" and "to depend/'